October 22, 2013

The Mechanics of Singing | Articles

The Mechanics of Singing

Ruben Ramos
Submitted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 12:35pm
Diagram of the vocal fold
My method I've developed over the years to facilitate more sound and endurance for vocal performance. Below is an overview of what is required to achieve your goal of a richer singing voice.
I started singing around the age of 12. Although I had musical training since the age of 9 on guitar with great success, those formative years of attempting to sing were difficult for me. Mainly because I had asked someone at a local music store, "How do I learn to sing?" He just answered "Just sing." I said, "What?" and again he answered, "Just sing." I walked away shaking my head thinking I would get some pivotal information to light my path. In the later years that Zen moment made sense to me on what he was trying to do. He knew I would probably stick with it and never stop. He was right.
So I did "just sing." An entire year of singing along to Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin, and Santana tunes on vinyl with a replacement album from time to time. But Jr High kids can be cruel as we all know. I was mocked and made fun of my bad singing. I had a band that motivated this and they encouraged me to keep it up. I was passionate about it and realize that was the key. I'll refer to "passion" later in the article and why it's a key component.
By the time I was in high school, I had become a good vocalist with power and stamina. Even the Jr High kids would apologize for making fun a few years back. They saw how far I had come. Yet, I was still in the dark on why my voice would not perform well at times but I accepted it as part of being a singer.
My first year in college I took a voice class with Mary Maude Moore, a fantastic opera trained vocalist. But being one of 20 students never gave me the individual attention I needed to excel. I sang in choirs for years getting better at reading, theory, and musicianship. But I was still lacking the elements to achieve what I wanted to do.
It wasn't until I came upon my voice teacher, who was found by accident, I received the essential fundamentals. The one and only, the late and great Dr. Maurice Allard. Maurice was one of the best vocal coaches in the world. He taught at Julliard and the French Conservatory but his knowledge of how to produce the sound needed to have the best possible voice was unsurpassed by anyone I was aware of.
To be fair, Maurice wasn't the only one I drew knowledge from. It was when I studied with him, it all came together since I had already possessed the skills he coined as a gift or a great talent. I call it "passion in action." I had made most of the key work before I met Maurice. I believe that you have to have innate talent to be a great singer is BS. Yes, some may posses better skills in some areas and training at a young age does develop better synaptic engrams. But internal passion and drive can overcome most obstacles. Mindset is also crucial so as not to be in a state of stress when practicing and/or performing. Stress blocks learning but it also inhibits natural resonances your body creates. Relaxing is not just for saving your vocal chords from injury. It's also to maximize your sound while performing proper vocalizing mechanics.
So what are the mechanics of singing and/or vocalizing? Whether you are a vocalist or public speaker it's not complicated. But what's challenging is committing to a routine to develop effective skills. My lessons outline the exercises in great detail. This is simply an overview.
There are 3 stages or areas of your body to be mindful of.
1. The vocal chords (Creating more vibration with less effort)
2. Lungs (Breathing and capacity)
3. Diaphragm muscle groups (Support and tone production)
First is learning how to focus your vocal chords or more specifically, the vocal fold. The chords must connect more often rather than being apart. When they are apart, that is what we hear as a "breathy" or an "airy" sound. Pavarotti referred to making a "cry of the baby" sound to learn how to connect the vocal chords better.
Second is learning to inhale properly. Breathing is done from your lower abdomen not from your upper chest. One way to see this in action is watch someone sleeping and observe how the whole body inflates. This is natural breathing.
Third is another Pavarotti quote where he describes proper diaphragm support as having a bowel movement. The muscles that control this also control lung inflation. This can mean the difference between a thin sound to a huge and rich tone people will ask you to sing softer and not drown everyone out. :)
When the 3 elements are working in unison, you will achieve a bigger and fuller tone. With training, you will also increase your endurance and allow you to explore more musically challenging music.
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